Tonbridge History

Tonbridge Historical Society


The Society was founded in 1960 to provide a focus for local people with historical interests. Unlike some similar societies it is concerned with national history and with archaeology, as well as with the history of Kent and the local area. The annual subscription is £9 per person (£3 for students under 18), and new members are welcome. If you would like to join, please download and print the Application form or apply to the Hon. Sec. via the contact page. (Application Form requires Adobe Reader, probably already installed on your computer, If not, click here for free download.)

A programme of lectures by invited speakers runs through the winter months. Meetings take place in the Riverside Room in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge, usually  on Thursday evenings. In addition there is an afternoon meeting, with tea, on a Saturday in November.

The society's Research Group explores varied aspects of the history of the town and its inhabitants, and has produced six publications.

A twice-yearly Newsletter is published with Society news, information, articles and pictures relating to the history of Tonbridge. You can download some recent Newsletters here.

The society also maintains extensive collections of archives and pictorial material, and is starting to build a collection of three-dimensional artefacts.

The local Archaeology Officer is a member of our Society and keeps a watching brief on building works in the area which may reveal historic material.

Lecture programme 2016-17

Meetings are held in the Riverside Room in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge, usually on the second Thursday of the month. Non-members are welcome to attend as guests at a fee of £3 (under 18s free), payable at the door.

Thursday, 8th September 2016, 7.45 pm

Portals to the Past: Crossrail archaeology discoveries across London - Jay Carver

Thursday, 13th October 2016, 7.45 pm

Life in a Noble Household in the 14th century: Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare - Jennifer C War


Saturday, 12th November 2016, 2.30 pm

Two-session meeting with tea. Booking is essential for this meeting – a form with details of charges is available from the secretary.

Monasteries & Monastic Life and Building a Mediaeval Cathedral - David Carder


Thursday, 15th December 2016, 7.45 pm

Bad King John? - Dr Marc Morris


Thursday, 9th February 2017, 7.45 pm

Witchcraft in Tudor & Stuart Kent - Prof. Jackie Eales


Thursday, 9th March 2017, 7.45 pm

Elizabethan & Jacobean Deer Parks in Kent - Dr Susan Pittman


Thursday, 13th April 2017, 7.30 pm

Annual General Meeting followed by

Aspects of mediaeval Tonbridge - George Buswell and Deborah Cole


Previous programmes

Out lecture topics in 2015-16 were: 'Magna Carta', 'The Huguenots and their contribution to Kent', 'The Signs of the Times (how to read medieval art) and The Politeness of Princes (the reality of medieval etiquette and table manners)', 'An engineer at the Great Exhibition', 'The Medway Valley during the Roman Occupation', 'The real Downton Abbey – Edwardian Service', 'Fortress Tonbridge 1939-45'.

Our lecture topics in 2014-15 were: 'Traditional Kentish building meterials', 'Archaeology and Graffiti at Knole', 'The London Eye', 'First World War artists', 'Kent 100BC to 600AD', '19th century gluttony and starvation'.

In 2013-14 they were: 'The Georgians', 'Kent in the Civil War', 'Shakespeare's Playhouses', 'Theatrical Lives', 'A History of comic verse', 'A POW's diary', 'Gadshill Place', and 'The Luttrell Psalter'.

In 2012-13 they were: 'A History of domestic lighting', 'Hospitals and Almshouses', 'Victorian London' and 'Victorian leisure and pleasure', 'The Queen and the 1950s', 'Black Travellers in 19th century Africa', 'Policing the past', 'The Norman Conquest'.

In 2011-12 they were: 'Tudor Ladies', 'A City of Legends (Benghazi history and archaeology') 'Women Wartime Workers in the Munitions Industry and The Bevin Boys', 'Oral history – fact or fiction?', 'The building of the Crystal Palace', 'Cast Iron Firebacks', 'All the rage – fashions in the 1920s and 30s'. 

In 2010-11 they were: 'Louis XIVth', 'Knole and the Sackvilles', 'The Magpie' (drama presentation on the wives of Henry VIIIth), 'Railways in West Kent', 'The Origins and Early Development of Towns in Kent', 'The Salomons of Broomhill', 'The work of the KCC Heritage Conservation Team'.

In 2009-10 they were: 'Darwin, the scientist in the garden', 'Edward 1st', 'Paintings of domestic town gardens', 'The history of lace', 'The Wealden Forest Ridge project', 'Emigration in the 19th century', and 'Sightseeing in the Middle Ages'.

In 2008-9 they were: 'Rudyard Kipling', 'Mediaeval Sandwich', 'A country house Christmas', 'Plays and Players in Mediaeval and Early Modern Kent', 'Archaeology of the Olympic site', 'Westenhanger Castle', and 'A closer look at old Tonbridge'.


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